Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Zimbabwe’s false dawn; how the military ran the people’s dreams aground

A little over three years ago the world woke up to the hoarse voice of a military general in Zimbabwe effectively telling the people of that country and also the world that Robert Mugabe and his family though safe were now out of power.General Sibusiso Moyo told the world that what was happening in Zimbabwe was not a military coup. He did not say what it was.In a totally vague language, the General said what the Zimbabwe Defence Force was doing was to pacify a “degenerating” political, socio and economic forces in Zimbabwe.That got everybody even more confused.As we were later to discover, Sibusiso Moyo was only ta messenger leading the advance party. The kingpin, General Constantino Chiwenga, head of the armed forces was still on his way.

In a few days Robert Mugabe resigned and his estranged right-hand man, Emerson Mnangagwa was coronated.It serves no purpose to go in detail what went on behind the scenes. The effects of all that went behind the scenes are today playing out in public for the whole world to see.Mnangagwa has failed as a leader.He has nobody to blame, but himself and the generals who are the true leaders of Zimbabwe.The world has done its part.They have given Mnangagwa enough the benefit of doubt.More importantly he was given ample time to reinvent himself and also prove that he intended to take Zimbabwe back to the world community from where Mugabe had unrepentantly dragged it out.Mnangagwa was given a blank cheque to show that he intended to bring the much-needed reforms to Zimbabwe.That meant overhauling the country’s political process, especially the brutal laws that had been enacted by Mugabe to take away people’s freedom.The IMF and the World Bank waited with billions in pocket to see what economic reforms Mnangagwa was implementing so that they could provide rescue packages and lifeboat facilities to take Zimbabwe back to where it used to be.The United States and Europe were more than willing to lift the sanctions if there was even a slightest discernible glimpse that under Mnangagwa things were moving in the right direction.

After almost four years in power, there is nothing to show.Mnangagwa has failed big time.He has totally squandered the goodwill he undeservedly enjoyed from the world.The task that Mnangagwa faced was the easiest. All he needed to do was say Zimbabwe was now a new country. That henceforth it would do things differently from the era of Robert Mugabe.Apparently, that was a big ask.The world underestimated Mnangagwa’s influence during all of Mugabe’s tenure in office.Like Joyce Mujuru who Mugabe sacked towards the end, Mnangagwa had been in Mugabe’s cabinet since 1980. He held all the senior positions. And was Mugabe’s most favored protégé.The fallout and sacking did not in any way mean he could be divorced from all of Mugabe’s atrocities.But still everybody was willing to give him a chance.Now Mnangagwa has clearly failed (refused is a better word) to disown Mugabe’s legacy of violence to save his own presidency.In power, he has made little political changes to allay fears of investors. Thus, Zimbabwe remains politically unstable as ever.To investors the country is a political risk it has always been – or worse.Now Mnangagwa might be removed by the same generals who installed him after removing Mugabe to whom he reports.The upshot of it all is that Zimbabwe remains a pariah state, saddled by a dysfunctional economy and moribund political process.Political reforms are absolutely essential for the return of investments, especially international investments.

Both IMF and World Bank will never open their doors to Zimbabwe without evidence of explicit and irreversible reforms.With so many people killed simply for questioning the result following General Elections, Mnangagwa’s commitment and indeed belief in democracy remain doubtful.History of Zimbabwe shows that Mnangagwa is a security man – through and through.He was involved knee-deep in the massacre of the Ndebeles in the 1980s.Some people thought he was a changed man.His failures to prosecute all perpetrators of the violence and killings that followed the elections is testimony to his unchanged behaviour.Clearly the generals surrounding him, at whose pleasure he remains in office would not allow it.In short Mnangagwa is not his own man.That country is now run by Generals Chiwenga and Moyo.Chiwenga is officially a vice president – but he is the key man in charge.

Moyo is Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is effectively the second in charge.Mnangagwa is only used by these generals as a convenient zombie.Leader of Opposition Nelson Chamisa’s dream to one day take power will remain just that – a dream.He has made his task harder by allowing himself to be in the pockets of nasty South African billionaires that had wanted to lay their hands-on Zimbabwe’s diamonds. That has been his tragedy.In a way Chamisa finds himself in the same position like Botswana’s Duma Boko. The only difference is that Chamisa’s position is totally untenable.The generals have long made it clear that they consider themselves the true custodians of the liberation for which Zimbabweans paid with their lives.Of course that is a lie.

Many of them were still in their nappies when gun noises ceased in Zimbabwe. Chamisa might win elections in future, but he will not be allowed to rule Zimbabwe.This brings us to the sanctions facing Zimbabwe and some of its leaders, including Mnangagwa.It is true that the people of Zimbabwe are feeling the burden of the sanctions than the rulers.Yet, as we say, save for Mugabe’s death, nothing has so far happened to honestly say the original reasons of sanctions no longer exist.Mnangagwa has failed to convince the world to back him. And he failed to persuade anybody in the west to lift sanctions.

As one of his early backers I am personally disappointed not only by his glaring shortcomings but also by his reversion to his old ways.SADC will make all the noise, but the SADC leaders if they are honest should confront Mnangagwa with conditions for them to back him as a way of persuading the capitals of the world from where these sanctions are administered to lift sanctions.Mnangagwa, acting at the behest of the generals has killed the people’s dream.SADC should not abet him. More crucially, SADC should be on the side of the people of Zimbabwe, not the generals who are Mnangagwa’s principals.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.